Editorial: All Hawkeyes need to prepare for coronavirus

COVID-19 has already disrupted classes and other parts of regular student life. The UI community needs to do its part in fighting the outbreak.

DI Editorial Board

Certainty is in short supply for students as spring break approaches for the University of Iowa. Classes have been moved online, trips have been canceled, and thousands of students face countless decisions affecting personal and public health.

As members of the Daily Iowan Editorial Board, we don’t have prescriptions or prognoses for the outbreak. It is normal to be scared, anxious, or upset — but we can choose how we react to the coronavirus crisis.

For expert advice, UI students should listen to professionals at the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Iowa Department of Public Health. The WHO is posting daily updates on its website, and the CDC has made YouTube videos answering questions and providing briefs about COVID-19. 

As for the DI, we currently plan to continue to publish after our regularly scheduled spring-break hiatus. We plan to further the message of Editor-in-Chief Marissa Payne wrote Thursday:

“There’s a great deal we don’t know about COVID-19, but through DI content, we plan to continue informing the community about what this means for Hawkeyes.”

Information will be known, people will be treated, and unforeseen difficulties will occur. We don’t have all the answers right now, but this is what we know about the story so far.

Hawkeyes need academic security in the face of this pandemic.

Online classes

For at least two weeks after spring break, the UI will conduct all courses online. Many other higher-education institutions also made the move to virtual instruction. 

Unfortunately, this won’t be as simple as putting up some slides online or posting a video lecture from home in all circumstances. The most obvious problems involve classes that require in-person interaction such as science labs and fine-arts courses. There is currently no official UI guidance for instructors of these classes, instead giving them discretion for what would be best in individual situations.

For the sake of students’ academic records and mental well-being, we ask for empathy and leniency whenever possible for the duration of the online-only classes. Accommodations should also be made for students who will not have access to high-speed internet and other necessary resources.

In short, Hawkeyes need academic security in the face of this pandemic.

Public-health precautions

The reach of COVID-19 has grown to the point where even healthy, able-bodied people should take extra precautions. We again urge our fellow UI students to follow the direction of public-health officials.

It is our civic duty to do everything we can to take responsibilities for ourselves, not take any chances, and do everything we can to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

There are many simple steps everyone can take to mitigate infections. Minimizing unnecessary physical and social contact, washing hands more often than usual, and avoiding face touching are all doable.

Many are already aware that those most vulnerable to the coronavirus are older people and those with immunodeficiencies. It may be tempting for students to ignore expert recommendations because most of us aren’t at risk of serious symptoms or death. But this isn’t about us.

By taking proper measures to protect ourselves from infection, we stop the virus from reaching further. It is our civic duty to do everything we can to take responsibilities for ourselves, not take any chances, and do everything we can to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Other student concerns

We are all more than students with health statuses. There are many other factors that demand attention from the Hawkeye student body and broader community.

Employees — Many UI students work part-time and full-time to pay for tuition, housing, food, and other necessities. Particularly for those who work on-campus jobs, a decrease or cancellation of hours would make life as they know it impossible. If they can’t pay rent, what are they supposed to do? There has been a push on the federal level to guarantee sick leave for workers, but there are no commitments thus far. Whether it comes from the national or state government, the need for financial relief becomes more urgent every day.

Out-of-state — Temporarily moving back home is the best course of action for lots of Hawkeyes. Many already made those plans because of spring break. However, if the online-class period is extended beyond the current two weeks, the disruption could be disastrous. This is even worse for international students. The possibility of canceled flights is just one of the many complications for which students living far from Iowa City need solutions.

Racism — Perhaps the most vulnerable students during this crisis is the UI’s Asian and Asian-American populations. There have already been incidents reported elsewhere of attacks on people of Asian descent. No crisis can be an excuse to discriminate against our fellow students. Now more than ever, Hawks help Hawks.

Seniors — For those scheduled to graduate from the UI this semester, the thought of canceled commencement adds to the stress of finishing classes to earn their degrees. This is especially true for many first-generation students. While ceremonies are planned for more than two months away, specific sympathy for seniors is warranted.

It’s easy to feel hopeless right now. It’s easy to feel as if individual actions don’t matter. It’s easy to give up. But we can’t. 

The UI will survive the coronavirus. The DI will report on it. And in this moment of uncertainty, we will pull together.

Stay safe, Hawkeyes.

For more coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, click here.